Recent protests in France oppose plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The demonstrations stem from a government plan so people would work -and pay into the pension system - for longer. There’s also concern about what that change might mean for those who are many decades away from pension age. France isn’t the only country facing economic efficiency challenges as populations age and leave the labour market. As more people leave Europe’s labour market, will young workers have to pay for the old? The Inquiry hears also about the productivity challenges facing Spain and Germany. Anne Elizabeth Moutet is a French columnist for the Daily Telegraph newspaper Bart Van Ark , Professor of productivity studies at the University of Manchester Prof Marcel Jansen, an economist from the Autonomous University of Madrid Stefano Scarpetta is Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs at the OECD Presenter Charmaine Cozier (Protesters at the rally against Macron's pension reform, Paris, France. Credit: Telmo Pinto/Getty Images)
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Why is life expectancy falling in America?
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23:44The life expectancy of Americans has fallen in recent years after a long period when it had been increasing. There are a number of factors which contribute to the fall. The Covid pandemic, with over 1m deaths, made a significant impact on lowering the average life expectancy. In comparison with other peer countries, the USA also did not return to pre-Covid levels at the same rate. However there are also other important factors driving this, namely gun deaths and drug deaths as a result of opioid overdoses. And another major contributor to lower life expectancy in the States is inequality in the US healthcare system. In this edition of The Inquiry Tanya Beckett explores why US life expectancy is falling. She hears from Jeremy Ney an adjunct professor at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco and author of American Inequality, a data project that highlights US inequality and regional divides. Dr. Mark Rosenberg helped set up the Centre for Disease Control’s National Centre for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) and is a key proponent of research that examines how to reduce gun violence. He explains how gun deaths among young people have a big influence on the average life expectancy numbers. Dr. Judith Feinberg, is a professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine - her experience of working with communities with high levels of opioid problems makes her an authority on the extent to which drug overdose deaths impact average life expectancy. Ellen Marra is a professor of health economics at Harvard University - she says that diseases such as cancer and cardio deaths are big factors in lower life expectancy, compared with the number of gun and opioid deaths. CREDITS Presenter Tanya Beckett Producer Phil Reevell. Researcher Bisi Adebayo Editor Tom Bigwood Image: USA Birthday Cake, Credit: Getty Images
What’s next for Palestinian leadership?
23:45The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is ageing and his ruling Fatah party is deeply unpopular. There have been protests against him and the Palestinian Authority. Many Palestinians feel the PA has lost legitimacy. There’s no plan for how to choose a successor to Mahmoud Abbas and any candidate is likely to be controversial. There’s a risk that an unpopular replacement may throw the occupied territories into chaos, even violence, and have major implications for the future goals of Palestinian people. Contributors: Dalia Hatuqa, independent Palestinian journalist. Khalil Shikaki, Professor of Political Science and director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. Ahmad Khalidi, political analyst and writer on Palestinian and Middle East political and strategic affairs. Ines Abdel Razak, executive director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy. Presenter: Emily Wither Producer: Louise Clarke Researcher: Matt Toulson Editor: Tara McDermott Sound engineer: Jack Wood (Photo: Palestinians celebrate vote. Credit: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
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What’s wrong with our guts?
23:17How much do you think about your gut? Are you taking a probiotic or prebiotic? If so, you’re not alone as globally we spend billions of dollars on soothing our stomachs. Our guts do so much more than just digest our food and there’s a very special connection to our brain. So how exactly does our gut work? And what do we need to do in order to keep it healthy? Presenter: Tanya Beckett Producer: Louise Clarke Researcher: Matt Toulson Sound engineer: Nicky Edwards Contributors: Geoff Preidis, a gastroenterologist at Baylor college of medicine at Texas children’s hospital in Houston (Photo: Man bites in to cheeseburger. Credit: Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
Are we alone in the universe?
23:46In July 2023 a group of lawmakers in the US held a session to explore evidence of extra-terrestrial life. The evidence included the famous Tic Tac videos of mysterious objects flying through the sky. Pilots described encounters with Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon – or UAPs. Congress also heard of a secret US government programme that retrieves and reverse engineers materials made by non-humans, including crashed and intact craft – and possibly the remains of the entities that piloted them. So does this mean we are not alone in the universe? Do sightings and hearsay provide enough scientific data to answer a question that has been asked by humans for thousands of years – are we alone in the universe? Contributors: Greg Eghigian is professor of history and bioethics at Penn State University in the US. Leslie Kean is an investigative reporter. Adam Frank is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Rochester, and author of The Little Book of Aliens. Dr Chelsea Haramia is a member of the UK SETI Research Network Post-detection Hub. Presented by Charmaine Cozier Produced by Louise Clarke Researched by Matt Toulson and Bisi Adebayo Editor Tom Bigwood Mixed by Kelly Young (UFO crash site sign in Roswell, New Mexico USA / Getty Images)
Is work from home working?
23:54Working from home became the norm for millions of us around the globe during the Covid-19 pandemic, but now three years on some major employers are insisting on their employees returning to the office, for at least some part of the working week. The levels of working from home currently vary, depending on the country and its culture. The Netherlands are looking at legislation to allow employees the ability to work remotely, whilst in Japanese culture the preference for employees tends to be going into the office. So how do we navigate a future where both business and personnel needs are met to provide a good work life balance. This week on the Inquiry we’re asking ‘Is work from home working?’ Contributors: Jose Maria Barrero, Assistant Professor of Finance at ITAM Business School, Mexico and Co-Founder of WFH Research project Dr Saori Sugeno, Lecturer in Corporate Governance and International Business, Surrey Business School, University of Surrey Román Gil, Partner in law firm Sagardoy Abogadas, the Spanish firm of Ius Laboris, global employment law alliance for multinational companies. Dr Wladislaw Rivkin, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Trinity Business School, Dublin, Ireland Presenter: Charmaine Cozier Producer: Jill Collins Researcher: Matt Toulson Editor: Tom Bigwood Technical Producer: Kelly Young Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown (A working from home environment / Getty images)
Can Brazil’s indigenous population save the Amazon?
23:52About 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil and it is home to more than 300 indigenous groups. But for centuries both the rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants have been under threat, from deforestation, agri-business, mining and politics. Brazil’s current president, Luis Ignácio de Silva, has made the future security of the Amazon and its peoples a key policy pledge. So far, the president has appointed a new minister for indigenous peoples and according to government figures, the first six months of this year saw a 33 percent drop in deforestation. But at the recent Amazon Summit in Belém, the president failed to commit to zero-deforestation, to the disappointment of indigenous leaders. They are calling for more protection for their land and their way of life, which they say is crucial to the future preservation of the Amazon and a matter for the whole world. This week on The Inquiry we are asking ‘Can Brazil’s indigenous population save the Amazon?’ Contributors: Pedro Cesarino, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sao Paolo and Writer, Brazil Carlos Peres, Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of East Anglia, England Ana Carolina Alfinito, Legal Advisor at the NGO Amazon Watch Kawá Huni Kuin, Indigenous leader and representative from the Huni Kuin/Kaxinawá people, in the State of Acre, Brazil. Presenter: David Baker Producer: Jill Collins Researcher: Matt Toulson Editor: Tom Bigwood Technical Producer: Kelly Young Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown (Image: Kawá Huni Kuin, Photo Credit: Bimi Huni Kuin)
Can we stop oil?
23:47Environmental activists in the UK have disrupted high profile sporting events in an effort to persuade the government to stop oil development. How would stopping oil production impact those countries around the world with economies dependent on oil? Tanya Beckett explores the history of oil, the implications of the Ukraine war for its price, how countries like Nigeria and Norway are dependent on oil revenues, and the challenges facing new oil producers in the global south as they face international efforts to limit new oil development in order to meet international climate targets. Presenter Tanya Beckett Producer Phil Reevell Researcher Matt Toulson Editor Tara McDermott Technical producer Gareth Jones (Industrial offshore oil rig platform on the North Seacoast, UK. Credit Getty images)
Why is South Africa collapsing?
23:45South Africa once had the most abundant and cheap electricity on the continent. Now, it is experiencing power blackouts. It’s called loadshedding, the process by which the power company Eskom occasionally reduces the demand for electricity on the national grid. For many South Africans this means no electricity for up to ten hours a day, almost every day. The result is disruption to everyday life, impacting on work, education, sanitation, food and heating. In 1994 Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress party promised a better life for all South Africans. So why is South Africa’s infrastructure crumbling? Contributors: Duma Qgubule, economist and journalist Thomas Mnguni, campaigner with Groundwork Anton Eberhard, professor at the Power Futures Lab at the University of Cape Town Lungile Mashele, energy economist Presented by Audrey Brown Produced by Louise Clarke Researched by Anoushka Mutanda-Dougherty Edited by Tara McDermott and Tom Bigwood Technical producer Kelly Young Production co-ordinator Brenda Brown (Dressmaker Faieza Caswell sews under candlelight at her workplace in Cape Flats, South Africa. Credit: Esa Alexander/Reuters)
Are weight loss drugs the answer to obesity?
23:44In June 2023 the British government announced a £40 million pound pilot scheme to increase access to specialist weight management services in England -It reads “Using the latest drugs to support people to lose weight will be a game-changer.” The scheme will use prescription drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic, a once weekly injection that slows down the emptying of the stomach and suppresses the hunger hormone in our brains. Both these medications are made of the same of the same drug called Semaglutide. Semaglutide mimics the hormone released by the body when we eat food, helping people feel fuller for longer and suppressing mental chatter about various food cravings. When prescribed alongside diet, physical exercise and behavioural support, the drug can help obese people lose 15% of their body weight. Ozempic has been used to treat sufferers of type 2 diabetes since 2018 when doctors noticed that alongside increasing insulin the drug helped people lose weight. In 2021 the drug was approved as a fat loss injection under the name Wegovy. Since then, stories of the 'fat loss wonder drug' have lit up social media, rumours are rife about who might be using it in Hollywood and international demand has skyrocketed. But it's not meant for shedding a few pounds to fit into your favourite frock. So this week were asking are weight loss drugs the answer to obesity? Contributors: Dr Disha Narang Director of obesity medicine at Northwestern Wake Forest Hospital Adrian Van den Hoven Director General of Medicines for Europe Dr Jena Tronieri Director of Clinical Services at its Department of Psychiatry’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the Perelman School of Medicine Josh Jordy CEO of Eracal Therapeutics a biotech company based in Switzerland. Presenter Charmaine Cozier Producer Anoushka Mutanda-Dougherty Editor Tara McDermott Researched by Bisi Adebayo Mixed by Cameron Ward Production Co-ordinator Brenda Brown (Overweight person on scales./Credit: Peter Dazely/Getty images)
Is Venezuela a failed state?
23:47Venezuela is the country with the largest oil deposits, yet 3 in every 4 Venezuelan lives in extreme poverty. More than 7 million people are recorded as having left the country since 2015 in search of a better life, causing the largest ever displacement of people in Latin American history. And it’s only surpassed in numbers by those people leaving Ukraine. But Venezuela is not at war, its current humanitarian crisis is the result of years of political and economic turbulence. International sanctions, imposed on the country with the aim of pressing the government to change its policies and restore democracy have had little impact, other than making it more difficult for Venezuela’s economy to function. Presidential elections are due to be held in the country next year, but talks between the government and the opposition to ensure that they are free and fair are currently at a standstill. This week on The Inquiry we’re asking ‘Is Venezuela a failed state?’ Contributors: Maria Gabriela Trompetero, Migration Researcher, Bielefeld University, Germany Alejandro Velasco, Associate Professor of History, New York University, author of ‘Barrio Rising: Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela’ Dr. Luisa Palacios, Senior Research Scholar, Centre on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University Mariano de Alba, Senior Adviser, International Crisis Group. Presenter: Tanya Beckett Producer: Jill Collins Researcher: Matt Toulson Editor: Tara McDermott Technical Producer: Kelly Young Production Co-ordinator: Brenda Brown (Oil spills over a hand and river in Venezuela. Credit: John Harper/Getty Images)